Jenny Douglas started out on the JGH switchboard. Her connection to the hospital lasted a half a century

Jenny Douglas in 2016, receiving a Caring Beyond award from the JGH Humanization of Care Committee. The award recognizes employees who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty.”
Jenny Douglas in 2016, receiving a Caring Beyond award from the JGH Humanization of Care Committee. The award recognizes employees who have gone “above and beyond the call of duty.”

When Jenny Douglas began at the Jewish General Hospital as a telephone switchboard operator in 1968, phones were attached to walls, reports were written on typewriters and copying a message meant finding a sheet of carbon paper.

By the time she retired in April as a Coordinator in the Presurgical Screening Clinic, the hospital was transformed into a world of microchips, robotic surgery and phones in pockets. Yet some things never changed during her more than half-century of service: the dedication and compassion that earned her the affection and respect of others.

“I loved my job,” Mrs. Douglas said after retiring. “I felt I could help people who are less fortunate than me.”

Our CIUSSS presents its annual Honour Roll in the coming weeks in recognition of employees like Mrs. Douglas—the women and men who devote themselves year after year, often behind the scenes, to improving the daily lives of patients and co-workers.

Mrs. Douglas came to Montreal from Jamaica to visit Expo 67 and got a job at the JGH the following year. She moved from switchboard operator in the sub-level of Pavilion A to cashier in the cafeteria on the main floor of Pavilion B. There, medical staff who made up her regular customers recognized her “people skills,” and Mrs. Douglas became a clerk in Admitting/Pre-Admissions, which later incorporated the Test Centre.

“I felt I could help people who are less fortunate than me.”

Jenny Douglas

Mrs. Douglas became a coordinator and remained until 2009, when she decided to retire. The pause didn’t last long. “I was climbing the walls, and I missed everyone,” she says. She returned to the hospital part-time and remained another 15 years.

Jenny Douglas in a 1978 issue of Pulse, the JGH’s employee newsletter, in an article highlighting a “roast” in her honour.
Jenny Douglas in a 1978 issue of Pulse, the JGH’s employee newsletter, in an article highlighting a “roast” in her honour.

Mrs. Douglas’s attention to patient care is legendary. She called people “Hon” or “Darling,” hummed them a church hymn when they were anxious, and stopped by their homes on her way to work to pick up a urine sample when they couldn’t make it to the hospital themselves.

The hospital was flooded with letters of praise. “Jenny Douglas showed devotion, competence, efficiency, courtesy and (…) had an unfailing smile for everyone,” one person wrote in 1996. “One could not help but notice her experience and unspoken authority and respect that she commands.”

Her skills extended beyond her personal touch. Mrs. Douglas was focused and organized, ensuring that patients wouldn’t have to wait too long for a blood test result or making sure a doctor was present when required.

“Jenny had a big heart but she was also a trouble-shooter. She could do anything,” recalls Anna Abramowitz, who was Mrs. Douglas’s supervisor at Medical Records and Admitting for many years. “When things needed to get done, she made sure they got done. Without Jenny, my job would have been much harder.”

As for Mrs. Douglas, she’s grateful for a job that allowed her to put two children through school and to work with colleagues who became like family. “Ever since I set foot in this country, I worked at the Jewish General,” Mrs. Douglas says. How does she plan to spend her well deserved retirement? By returning to the JGH. “If my health holds up, I’m going to volunteer,” she says. “I want to come back.”

*  Our CIUSSS’s Employee Engagement and Recognition Program team presents its Honour Roll in early June in recognition of those achieving career milestones in 2024 in multiples of five (i.e., five years of service, 10 years of service, etc.)